Church leaders in Grenada have urged the island’s cash-strapped government to reject any austerity measures which the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) might recommend in order to get the ailing economy moving upwards.
The Conference of Churches in Grenada issued a statement through its Chairman, Reverent Osbert James amidst a visit to the island by a team of officials from the IMF to access the economic and financial position of the government.
The six-month old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration has invited the fund to help the island come up with a programme that has growth as its centre-piece.
The government in St. George’s is said to be broke financially and has not been paying its creditors since assuming office in February.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell has stated publicly that his government would be seeking for a second time in eight years to restructure the island’s massive debt which currently stands at EC$2.3 billion.
Most of the debts were raked up by a previous NNP regime of Mitchell that had ruled the island from June 1995 to August 2008 as it embarking upon a borrowing and spending spree on non-productive projects.
Since returning to office, Dr. Mitchell has put together an economic and finance team that includes Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine and Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Patrick Antoine to plot a new economy for the island and to help deal with its debt situation.
As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the statement issued by the church group on the Grenada/IMF situation:
We, the leaders of the member churches of the Conference of Churches in Grenada are deeply concerned about the hardship being suffered by so many of our people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
People are now finding it difficult to provide for the expenses of daily living, repaying mortgages taken out in more prosperous times and even, in some cases, providing food for their families. There are numbers of persons, even those with sound academic qualifications, who are unable to find jobs. The social problems have reached alarming proportions.
It is against this background that we strongly urge our government to resist any pressure to increase taxes or to make further cuts to social, medical or educational services. Revenue can be increased by ensuring that existing taxes are not evaded and that all taxes (especially VAT) are efficiently collected from all who are liable.
We support efforts to create jobs and to find sources of investment funding that can be channelled into productive projects that will not just produce wealth but that will enhance the sense of self worth and the dignity of our people while protecting our environment.
We are convinced that further austerity measures are not the way out of Grenada’s debt crisis. We strongly support the Government of Grenada in its resistance against austerity and we are actively mobilising support internationally towards this end.
We are strengthened in this stance by a working paper produced by the personnel of the International Monetary Fundi which suggests that such strategies have not worked in the past.
We urge the government to give further serious consideration to the nine points in the document “A Jubilee for Grenada Now” that arose out of the Debt Workshop held in May of this year. Point 4 of that document refers to debt sustainability. The document prepared by the staff of the IMF presents the view that to reach a sustainable level of debt Grenada will need a cut of over 90% of its present debt.
We support the government’s efforts to achieve this and we again emphasise the point that any reduction in debt must go towards the socio-economic development of our country with a preferential option for the poor